Over 100 missing and scores feared dead after boat capsizes in the Meditteranean

UNICEF has warned that the number of unaccompanied children attempting to make the Mediterranean crossing doubled in 2016

Over 100 missing and scores feared dead after boat capsizes in the Meditteranean

A woman reacts on being rescued in the Mediterranean, after 191 people and two corpses were recovered from the water, Friday 12-01-2017. Image: Sima Diab AP/Press Association Images

Aid officials say more than 100 people may have drowned off the coast of Libya after a boat carrying migrants capsized.

It is thought 110 people were on board and only 4 survivors have been found.

Poor weather conditions have seriously hampered the rescue effort – with eight bodies recovered so far.

Meanwhile Pope Francis has called on people around the world to support migrants and refugees in any way they can - especially vulnerable children.

Around 65 million people worldwide have been forced to leave their homes as a result of conflict.

According to the United Nations, 34 thousand people are displaced every day in places like Syria and Afghanistan.

Trócaire's Éamonn Meehan says Ireland is providing a home for some of those refugees but warned we could be doing more:

“We have agreed as a country to take in 4,000 Syrian refugees,” he said. “That is a generous thing to do, it is a very small number in comparison to the total number of refugees out there and the reality is that many of the poorest countries in the world actually look after the largest number of refugees.”

Unaccompanied minors

Children’s aid agency UNICEF has warned that the number of unaccompanied children arriving by sea to Italy doubled in 2016.

The agency said special measures urgently needed to protect these vulnerable children from trafficking, exploitation and abuse.

Some 25,800 unaccompanied or separated children arrived to Italy by sea in 2016.

“These figures indicate an alarming trend of an increasing number of highly vulnerable children risking their lives to get to Europe,” said Lucio Melandri, UNICEF Senior Emergency Manager. “Current systems in place are failing to protect these children who find themselves alone in a totally unfamiliar environment.

“Because they are on the move, a coordinated European response is needed to keep them safe.”

“While most of the children were boys aged 15 to 17 years - younger children and girls have also been among the new arrivals. 

Sexual exploitation

UNICEF said girls in particular are at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse - including commercial sexual exploitation by criminal gangs. 

“The presence of so many unaccompanied or separated children along the Central Mediterranean route is unprecedented,” said Melandri. “It is obviously clear that we have a serious and growing problem on our hands.

“Apart from addressing the factors that are forcing children to travel alone from their homes, a comprehensive protection, monitoring system needs to be developed to protect them.”